Twas the Night Before Christmas at the Preacher's House...
There was a very cool article about how pastor's do Christmas that was floating around Facebook that I thought was pretty good.
For a lot of folks Christmas can be stressful, especially for Clergy, Clergy Moms and Dads, and I believe especially for Clergy Couples. Churches can do a lot to ease the stress off the pastor so that the pastor may be the most effective s/he can be-- especially on the night that is most the most highly attended church service of the year!
I am very very thankful for the amazing church I serve!
Messiah United Methodist Church is an amazing community of faith sharing the joy of Jesus Christ!
I've had both of my babies here. In fact we found out the day after we moved in the parsonage that we were pregnant.
I thought they would just be so disappointed! Here they brought on this young vibrant pastor and I was exhausted.... But no, they never thought or acted this way. Once my church knew that Kevin and I were expecting our first child- they were as ecstatic as we were! Then when sixteen months after our first we had our second, they joyfully welcomed her too!
Messiah has always been wonderful at offering childcare at church events, worship, meetings, etc. They were like this way before I was here.
But here's the huge thing- if I'm the only one who needs childcare at a meeting...it is still made available for me. That is huge! (Some of you will really know this!)
We have wonderful families, but neither Kevin's family nor mine live close by.
At church events, worship, etc, we do not have family who can help with our children.
One year, our children were in the nursery until 12:30am on Christmas Eve!
(We have the most amazing childcare/nursery workers ever!!! They love our children and we love them!)
We are a clergy couple- so we usually both need to be at church at the same time.
Currently, we serve at the same church (which has advantages and disadvantages to child care needs--for ex we once were both leading retreats (me for the Women's Ministry, him for the Youth on the same weekend- Aghh!)
For Christmas Eve this means four services 5, 7, 9, and 11. I lead the 5pm service for children and families. This service used to only have the children's Christmas pageant and children's music.... which is great--but I added a sermon when I came on board. Mostly because I figured that for some folks this may the only church service they attend all year, but also because every opportunity I get, I'm going to preach the Gospel. Dr. Teresa Fry-Brown used to walk into the classroom, shout out a text, and give us 3-5 minutes to preach a 3-5 minute sermon.
Even if I've got only a small window of time...its still an opportunity...
Kevin preaches at the 7pm Youth Service and then we're both at 9 and 11.
For a couple years now, one of our friends who also happens to be a staff member (although this is not part of her job!) has offered to be at our house with our children (and her kids come over too) we turn on the fire and they hang out enjoy watching movies, and our kids get to bed.
They did this again for us this year and it is a huge help- an enormous relief!
So after I finish preaching the 5pm service, I get the kiddos, take them home, get them in their Christmas pjs, and we put out Santa's cookies (milk will come out later).
I am so thankful for our friends helping us with this!
A few other kids have joined in this tradition- folks involved in the music ministry (who are also at church all night) have dropped off their kids.
SO in addition to my two-- our friends watched 2 other families' children!
With a total of 5 kids.
Before we left for church earlier in the afternoon on Christmas Eve-we pulled our pack n play out for one baby and cleaned the guest room up for another child to sleep.
Of course now- it still looks like a tornado hit our house --- post-Christmas....
Also for the past few years, one of the amazing women from our church, a Mom, and a friend, and a leader out of our PoLO's Parents of Little Ones ministry has organized "Christmas Eve Lunch" to be brought to our house on the 24th.
This is amazing and overwhelming, and I fight back tears as swarms of loving folks ring our doorbell bringing food. We were brought, turkey, ham, potatoes, green bean casserole, pumpkin bread, pumpkin cake, apple pie, salad, fruit salad, a Breakfast casserole! SO So much food!!! We ate a bit for Christmas lunch... but we are so go-go-go... that we don't tend to fill up too much on Christmas Eve... We really eat this on Christmas Day!
We have nothing to worry about on Christmas Day because of this joyful and kind service! And we are SO THANKFUL!
On Christmas Eve I tried to clean most of the day- we're having visitors coming in town this week... and since folks would be over in the evening of Christmas Eve I wanted things clean and organized... and I just wanted it to look nice for me- especially before the whirlwind came Christmas Day.
I cleaned until around noon ish-- then we ate a bit of lunch and then I put the girls in the bath by 2 ish. Gracie thought it was hilarious that she was taking a bath in the middle of the day!
I got the girls in their dresses, hair done, tights, shoes, and Kevin and I got ready and then we read "Twas the Night Before Christmas."
I wanted to be at church by 3:30 but didn't make it till 4 (still needed to print out my sermon and go over it a bit)-- even when its 5 minutes-- you still want it good! :)
Kevin was going to drop off girls at the Children's Choir room by 4:30 and get them where they needed to be. I had enough time to print sermon, pull my hair up, get my mic, robe, and stole on, put the nursery workers cards and gift cards together (and asked someone to take them down to the nursery for me- yay for delegating!) and got in the sanctuary to greet folks coming.
5pm came and the service went great! I'm pretty sure we had about 1000 folks at the Christmas Eve Service (but that's a "preacher's count" lol) Folks went out to the narthex...
The greatest part of service this year? After preaching my sermon- I sat with my family and together we watched the pageant together. We even got a picture!
Afterwards one of the youth helped Kevin get girls in settled in stroller to go home while I said goodbye to folks. Then I walked the girls home and got them settled with our friends.
I made it back in time to see the 7pm service. I wasn't participating in this service, so I had the great joy to sit in the pew and hear my husband preach!
You might be wondering - do preacher's eat dinner on Christmas Eve? I'm not sure how other's do it-- but I only eat and the other pastors and musicians and those involved in services at Messiah eat because of the love and generosity of the SPRC (for non Methodists- that's Staff Parish Relations Committee --they're like HR) The Staff Parish Committee sets a spread for all of us in the parlor. We have caffeinated drinks (a must), sandwiches, hors d'oeuvres, sweets, etc.. Everything is delicious and we graze all night.
One of the best Christmas Eve's -- it was right before the 11 o'clock service and I said something that sounded really Southern and I laughed at myself and said, "Wow, I'm tired my Southern accent is really coming out!" And Ralph (our Sr. Pastor said), "I hate to tell you this, but you always sound Southern!" We all were rolling! He has an incredible sense of humor!
The greatest part of Christmas Eve is singing "Silent Night" seeing the light of the Christ candle spread throughout the congregation and as the light is spread, Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus come up the aisle and stand with the pastors. I love sharing a hymnal with my amazing husband, holding my light high, and seeing the light throughout the congregation knowing that Christ has come!
At the end of singing Silent Night, Pastor Ralph gives this benediction:
"O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us we pray;
cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today!"
We sing "Joy to the World" and process out of the church with the acolyte leading, then Mary and Joseph, then Kevin and me arm in arm, and then Pastor Ralph and Pastor Jose side by side (they tend not to walk arm in arm!).
I love Christmas Eve! I love being a pastor and a mom and a wife-- and I love that God and my church have called and equipped me in all of the above!